DAILY / MAY 16, 2016  
Psychiatric News Update

APA Honors Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D.

David Satcher, M.D.
Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., received APA’s 2016 Human Rights Award at APA’s Annual Meeting today. Satcher was honored for his work highlighting the importance of mental health when he was the U.S. surgeon general—especially the landmark 1999 Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health—as well as his work as founding director and senior advisor of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse University.

The award was presented to Satcher at the symposium “The Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health, Parity, and Integrated Care,” sponsored by the APA Council on International Psychiatry. Also speaking at the symposium were former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who was instrumental in the passage of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and psychiatrist Eliot Sorel, M.D., co-chair of the World Psychiatric Association's (WPA’s) Task Force on Noncommunicable Diseases and Integrated Care and a faculty member at George Washington University.

Recalling his days as a medical student at Morehouse University in Atlanta, Satcher said he and his friends used to walk five miles to hear Martin Luther King Jr. preach at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father were co-pastors. “It could be dangerous listening to Dr. King because you would find yourself later doing things you hadn’t planned on doing,” Satcher said. “He had an ability to educate, motivate, and mobilize people that I have rarely seen since. That’s what we tried to do with the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health—educate, motivate, and mobilize.”

The former surgeon general said that the Satcher Health Leadership Institute is designed to foster leaders who will also educate, motivate, and mobilize to eliminate health disparities. He said mental health is a major focus of the institute’s work in this area. “In order to eliminate disparities in health, we need leaders who care enough, know enough, will do enough, and will be persistent enough,” he said.

Kennedy drew on the lessons of the civil rights movement, saying that what ultimately produced change was the enactment of laws that forced communities, schools, and businesses to change racist policies—regardless of how people felt in their hearts. “My feeling is that like the civil rights movement, we need to focus on elimination of the active discrimination against mental illness so that it becomes routine for patients to get a ‘check-up from the neck up.’ It is law, and the economic interests of health plans and accountable care organizations provide a compelling reason for them to provide integrated care—it is in their intrinsic interest.”

He concluded his remarks by quoting Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without demand.”

Sorel spoke on the topic of integrated care in clinical practice and described efforts by APA, the World Health Organization (WHO), the WPA, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to bring integrated care to the global health arena.

He recounted how the U.N. General Assembly in September 2011 addressed for the first time noncommunicable diseases but neglected to address mental illness. In response to this, Sorel, Satcher, and others petitioned WHO to redress the error and succeeded in getting mental health and mental illness on the agenda of the WHO Executive Board.

Sorel described what he called “total health”—the integration of primary care, mental health, and public health. “We believe this kind of integration is an effective response to the high rate of comorbidity of noncommunicable diseases throughout the world,” Sorel said. He also referenced the OECD’s July 2014 publication “Making Mental Health Count: The Social and Economic Costs of Neglecting Mental Health Care.”

(Image: David Hathcox)




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